LONGEVITY MEME NEWSLETTER
July 28 2003
The Longevity Meme Newsletter is a biweekly e-mail containing news,
opinions and happenings for people interested in healthy life
extension: making use of diet, lifestyle choices, technology and
proven medical advances to live healthy, longer lives. To subscribe or
unsubscribe from the Longevity Meme Newsletter, please visit
BAD LEGISLATION WATCH
A little good news over in Europe, as Spain has allowed embryonic stem
cell research to continue.
The restrictions are fairly onerous, however. It remains to be seen if
this will result in the advancement of stem cell research in that
Tech Central Station published a very interesting article by James
Pinkerton a week ago or so:
Ostensibly about religion and the state, it examines the roots of US
government hostility towards healthy life extension research of all
sorts: stem cell therapies, regenerative medicine and anti-aging
medicine. The effort expended by the US government to prevent, slow or
suppress these fields of scientific research is quite staggering.
Influential government departments and commissions such as the FDA and
the President's Council on Bioethics openly call for sweeping research
bans on religious grounds and step in to halt successful trials of
stem cell therapies.
We must stand up for our freedoms and speak up to support the
scientists who work hard to bring us longer, healthier lives. Visit
the Take Action! section of the Longevity Meme, pick a topic and write
to your representatives:
Living to see a future that looks just like today - in which 6000
people die every day of preventable illnesses and the effects of aging
in the US alone is not my idea of fun. As a society, we can do far
better than that. We have to stop the politicians and government
employees who would hold back medical progress and thereby condemn
millions more to suffer and die in coming years.
GETTING STARTED ON CALORIE RESTRICTION
I strongly advocate a calorie restriction diet as the most important
healthy life extension technique available here and now. In essence,
calorie restriction means eating 25 to 40% fewer calories while
maintaining a normal level of vital nutrients and vitamins. Decades of
research have proven the effectiveness of calorie restriction in
mammals. It extends lifespan and provides protection from all of the
common diseases and conditions of aging. It's never too late to start,
either: scientists have demonstrated that calorie restriction is very
beneficial even if adopted late in life. Find out more about calorie
Many benefits of calorie restriction appear keyed to weight loss.
While the main goal of a calorie restriction diet is not weight loss,
weight loss is a very noticeable side effect. Low calorie diets are
very effective in this respect. A great deal of research has linked
being overweight with increased risk of age-related illnesses and a
shorter, less healthy life.
In recent years, researchers have started to identify the genetic
roots of calorie restriction effects. There's definitely interesting
stuff going on at the genetic level when you eat fewer calories;
different gene expressions, different balances of proteins produced,
different cellular signaling mechanisms utilized. A couple of
companies are investigating the possibility of medicines that can
reproduce these effects, but they aren't there yet. If you want the
tremendous benefits of calorie restriction, you are going to have to
go about it the old fashioned way.
How to get started? There's a wealth of information and few easy ways
to digest it. Let me recommend the following path:
1) Obtain a Copy of "Beyond the 120 Year Diet" by Dr. Walford.
It is a very good, easy introduction to the principles and simple
ideas behind calorie restriction. Beyond that, it is a practical guide
that will help you over a lot of the early pitfalls. It handily
answers the "what exactly is it I eat?" question and offers some great
2) Practice Eating a Better Diet First
While you're waiting for Amazon to deliver, you can start to shift
your diet in preparation. Have a look at this "Paleodiet" resource:
The selling point of Paleodiets is that they replicate the
hunter/gatherer diet of our ancestors, and are therefore better for
us. I don't agree with this argument at all, but I have found that
Paleodiets make a great introduction into calorie restriction.
One thing you'll find out quite early on in your journey into calorie
restriction is that you'll have to stop eating a lot of highly
processed, rich, modern foods. They are heavy in calories and light in
nutritional value. In the US, you can walk into any corner store and
eat 1500 Kcal of junk food (chips, chocolate, and so forth) at a cost
of $10. You'll be hungry again a few hours later. That same $10 could
feed you for two days if you buy vegetables, rice and tofu. You'll eat
1500 Kcal a day and not be hungry at all.
I deliberately choose two examples at the opposite ends of the
spectrum to make my point here, but most people do eat far more rich
food and empty calories than they should. Adopting a Paleodiet for a
while is an easy way to start thinking more on what you eat, how you
cook and how you can better organize your eating habits in a
constructive way. It's a smaller and more manageable jump than leaping
straight into calorie restriction.
If you were eating an unhealthy diet before trying this, you'll notice
the benefits of healthy eating within a few weeks. Your palate will be
more sensitive to subtle tastes, you'll need less sleep and feel more
alert, and mood swings will be diminished.
3) Pay Attention to Calories
Counting calories is a good thing, and it's something that you have to
pay attention to. Your body will let you eat far more than is good for
you, so your brain is going to have to take over managing the process.
Almost everything you buy from the grocery or supermarket has calorie
content listed on the packet. Pay attention to these. Note that most
manufacturers list calorie content by portion, and that even a lowly
bar of chocolate usually has two portions. They don't like the number
of calories to be too high, as people won't buy it
so they'll just
divide the product into more portions with a lower calorie count per
Most foods have more calories than you might think. You can always
tell the new practitioners of calorie restriction at the supermarket:
they'll be the ones looking at many different product packages and
muttering "wow, I had no idea!"
For foods like apples, rice, loose vegetables and so forth, you will
need a book of calorie values. I recommend Food Values of Portions
The latest editions contain (fairly horrifying) values for fast foods
as well as the more usual suspects.
4) Remember the Supplements
You should always take a multivitamin supplement at the very least
when on a calorie restriction diet. In theory, it's perfectly possible
to obtain all you need from what you eat. In practice, this just isn't
going to happen. So take your supplements.
4) The Water Trick
Doctors tell us that few people in Western societies drink as much
water as they should for optimal health. Many people even mistake
low-level thirst for low-level hunger. A very, very helpful tactic for
those of us practicing calorie restriction is to drink a glass of
water when first feeling hungry. If you are still hungry twenty
minutes later, then maybe it's time to think about eating. Half the
time, you were just thirsty, however.
5) If You Have Questions, Ask!
There is a large and very helpful calorie restriction community out
Join the mailing list and feel free to speak out. They have plenty of
advice and helpful hints for newcomers. We were all new at this
calorie restriction thing at some point in the past, and there are no
6) It's Just a Diet, So Relax
Many people approach diets in an all-or-nothing way. If they slip up
or eat poorly one day, they become stressed or abandon the diet
entirely in frustration. The key to health through diet is a relaxed
attitude. If you slip up, let it go. Keep at it, do better next time,
and stay working on the average.
That's all for my commentary this time: a news roundup for the past
two weeks follows below. Have you told a friend about the Longevity
Have comments for us, or want to discuss the newsletter? Visit the
Longevity Meme forum at http://www.longevitymeme.org/forum.cfm, or
send e-mail to newsletter at longevitymeme.org.
reason at longevitymeme.org
Founder, Longevity Meme
Spain Conditionally Allows Stem Cell Research (July 25 2003)
Back to legislation again, on a slightly happier note this time from
Yahoo! News. Spain has approved embryonic stem cell research with some
moderately restrictive conditions; a far better policy than in some
other European countries. Indeed, better policy than there will be
here in the US if legislation currently under consideration is pushed
through. Stem cell research is immensely important to future health
and longevity. Effective regenerative medicine and many therapies to
prevent or repair the effects and diseases of aging seem likely to
result from this vital medical science.
Investigating How We Grow Old (July 25 2003)
This SFGate reporter talks to scientists from the Buck Institute for
Age Research. As they say: "We are the only freestanding institute in
the country devoted to basic research on aging and age-associated
diseases." Researchers at BIAR have produced great work in recent
years, and the article is a fascinating view of the front lines in the
fight against aging. The small size of the BIAR budget illustrates of
the need for a vast expansion in funding for aging and healthy life
extension research. Just think of the results if aging research were
funded like cancer research!
Japanese to Map the Mechanics of Life (July 24 2003)
A short item at Yahoo News remarks on plans to map a large number of
the proteins -- the "mechanics of life" -- inside every living thing.
This, in essence, is the next big step for the biomedical community.
Now that the Human Genome Map is done, we must turn to understanding
how the proteins created by genes work. This understanding is
fundamental to healthy life extension research. We have already reaped
many early benefits from genetics, and we stand to gain far more from
an understanding of proteins in the body.
More Artificial Bones On The Way (July 24 2003)
According to this article reprinted at the LEF News, a Tucson company
has developed artificial bone for regenerative medicine. This is very
similar to the successful Chinese work on regenerative bone implants
that was reported on in past weeks. Competition and parallel research
already is a very good sign. This sort of regenerative medicine is
very promising, offering hope for a wide range of patients. There is a
lot of fascinating, useful work going on today in the borders between
biotechnology, nanotechnology and material sciences.
New England Journal of Medicine Pushes Stem Cell Research (July 23
The influential New England Journal of Medicine has placed itself
firmly in favor of stem cell research and regenerative medicine. A
quote: "Of course, NEJM's move is political, and appropriately so,
DeAngelis said. I have to believe that he truly thinks that this is a
political way to drive the importance of stem cell research." Remember
that legislation in the US and elsewhere is currently restricting this
research, and threatens to even ban it. This only damages our future
health, longevity and access to advanced medicine. As the article puts
it: "We would hope that people will understand that you can't
legislate away scientific progress."
Science and the GOP (July 22 2003)
>From Tech Central Station, a fascinating article on how the US
government came to be opposed to medical research and the advancement
of medical science (especially in the areas of stem cell research and
regenerative medicine). This is well worth a read. We should not
forget that the US government is currently restricting vital medical
research, and is debating further, harsher restrictions. This should
certainly not be permitted to continue. Speak up for your medical
Gene Bank in the Fight Against Alzheimer's (July 22 2003)
A press release from the Ascribe newswire notes that the NIH and the
Alzheimer's Association are to work on creating a gene bank to help in
the fight against Alzheimer's. Defeating Alzheimer's (and other common
degenerative neural conditions) is of particular importance to healthy
life extension. It is looking increasingly likely that replacements
for all organs except the brain could be grown to order within the
next few decades. Thus, we have to spend more effort on defending our
brains from the effects of aging -- we only get one of those.
New Anti-Aging Drug Promotes Anti-Oxidants (July 22 2003)
I'm normally wary of anti-aging drug announcements -- with good
reason, since most are worthless -- but this one looks legitimate
(found via KurzweilAI.net). Northestern University is reporting on
research that claims remarkable success in an anti-oxidant related
drug. The claims sound a little too good to be true, so we should
definitely wait for peer review of the science before getting excited.
Press announcements before peer review are usually a bad sign in this
and most other scientific endeavors.
Exercise Is A Very, Very Good Thing (July 21 2003)
The Greenwich Time reminds us that moderate exercise brings enormous
health benefits, especially in the elderly. "I would say there is
probably no single group in the United States that has more to gain
from exercise than the elderly," said William Evans, director of the
Nutrition, Metabolism and Exercise Laboratory in the Department of
Geriatrics at the University of Arkansas. The rest of us benefit from
exercise as well. Studies consistently show benefits in health and
longevity resulting from moderate, easily accomplished exercise. If
you are not exercising, you should certainly talk to your physician
A Vaccine For Heart Attacks? (July 21 2003)
InfoAging details recent research that may lead to a vaccine that
reduces the risk of heart attacks. This can only be a good thing, but
it's worth noting that waiting around for medical science to help out
is no substitute for a good diet, supplementation and exercise now.
Diets and lifestyle choices like calorie restriction have been shown
to greatly reduce the incidence of many age-associated diseases and
condition. You really have to take care of your body if you are going
to benefit fully from future therapies resulting from current medical
New Theory of Aging Proposed (July 20 2003)
A brief article from ScienceDaily notes a new theory on the
evolutionary causes of aging and longevity. It doesn't look like a
particularly watertight theory, but that's not the important point.
The important point is that more scientists are talking about aging,
thinking about the root causes, and working on genetics and
biochemistry related to aging. This is, at heart, a good thing. In
medical science, more discussion leads to more research. More research
will lead to therapies and cures. One of the early steps in
invigorating any field of research is to get scientists and
researchers talking and exchanging theories.
Experts Debate Limits of Aging (July 19 2003)
At Reuters, a short article on the longevity discussion at the World
Future Society conference. There are some disparaging comments on the
ability of science to tackle aging from the normal disparaging
sources. It's worth remembering this old motto: when a scientist says
that something is possible, he might be right. When he says that
something is impossible, he is always wrong. Right now, the scientific
side of healthy life extension is looking very promising for the next
few decades. It's the political and public awareness aspects that need
More on Set of Longevity Genes Indentified (July 19 2003)
Betterhumans has a better article on recent work that identified a
whole set of longevity-related genes. This puts researchs a large step
closer to answering the all-important question: "What are the actual
biochemical processes that determine lifespan?" As the article notes,
this research will provide years of follow-on work for scientists. As
the basic mechanisms of aging are identified, possible therapies to
prevent or retard aging will surely follow.
"Male Menopause" A Myth? (July 18 2003)
In an article from the Independent, male menopause is declared to be a
myth, exaggerated and propped up by the companies that sell
"treatments" for the condition. Research suggests that "male
menopause" is simply a consequence of poor dietary and lifestyle
choices that lead to weight gain. "Men who put on weight will have a
fall in testosterone levels," Professor McKinlay said. "What they need
to do is go on a diet and increase physical activity, not be treated
with a patch." Given the many, many other unhealthy and downright
unpleasant consequences of being overweight, I once again recommend
looking into calorie restriction.
Repair Genes Offer Insights Into Aging, Cancer Therapies (July 18
The Kansas City Star reports on research into the genes that repair
our DNA. Since cancers and at least some of the effects and conditions
of aging occur due to DNA damage, a better understanding of these
"repair genes" could lead to a class of effective therapies. Don't
hold your breath, however: it typically takes at least five years to
get from this point to trialing treatments in the lab. This sort of
basic research is the wellspring of new medicine, however.
Congratulations to the researchers!
Update on Bionic Eyes (July 17 2003)
On the one hand we have regenerative medicine, on the other hand the
development of artificial replacement parts. Both young fields of
medicine are striving to find better ways to repair the damaged human
body. Here, from Wired, is an update on the state of the art in
artificial eyes. These are early days yet, just as for regenerative
medicine, but developments are coming thick and fast. Advancements in
all such technologies are very welcome. Repairing the damage done to
our bodies by age and accident offers the possibility of longer,
Stem Cell Research Forum Launched (July 17 2003)
BioMed Central reports on the launch of the promised International
Stem Cell Forum. This is an important step for this vital body of
medical research, as greater collaboration and coordination between
scientists worldwide will hasten the end results of research. A modest
quote: "It could take 15 to 20 years, but there's a good chance we
could produce therapies that are really revolutionary for diseases
that cripple a lot of people."
The Phoenix Conference on Longevity Health Sciences (July 16 2003)
ISHARE (International Society for Healthy Aging Research and
Education), Kronos Longevity Research Institute and the Oxidative
Stress and Aging Association have teamed up to put together a new
conference in December this year. A quote from the press release:
"Despite the fact that there are numerous anti-aging products and
clinical treatments on the market today, many lack scientific
evidence, and the Phoenix Conference on Longevity Health Sciences has
been created to help attendees separate fact from fiction, and to
promote research into and implementation of legitimate practices."
Good for them; high time we saw the industry starting to shake itself
free from the quacks and shysters.
Stem Cell Therapies For Neural Conditions Looking More Likely (July 16
Betterhumans covers research that reinforces the possibility of
near-future stem cell therapies for conditions like Parkinson's,
paralysis or various forms of age-related blindness. It looks like
stem cells from any human source can be transplanted into the brain,
optic nerves or spinal cord without fear of immune rejection. There,
they can start a process of regenerating damage. This is very
promising indeed; it seems that the first wave of simple stem cell
therapies will be as powerful as hoped.
Yet Another Approach to Beating Cancer (July 15 2003)
It's become interesting to keep track of the number of new potential
anti-cancer therapies in the works. This is lucky number 13 since the
last months of 2002, outlined at ScienceDaily. In essence, researchers
have found a sneaky way to sabotage the telomeres in cancer cells.
They believe that this will cause cancer cells in a given patient to
simply die out, although far more testing and experimentation is
needed. This is a good example of a therapy that is made possible by
an increased level of understanding of the basic mechanisms within our
Being Overweight Contributes to Alzheimer's? (July 15 2003)
It seems that being overweight contributes to every degenerative
disease known to man. I exaggerate, of course, but here (from MSNBC)
is news of a link between weight and the onset of Alzheimer's. Excess
weight has recently been linked to increased risk of cancer, and we
should all know about the strong link between weight and diabetes. If
you are overweight, you should certainly be looking into losing it as
the first step towards living a longer, healthier life. I recommend
talking to your physician and investigating calorie restriction.
Regenerative Stem Cell Treatment For Aging Arteries? (July 14 2003)
(From Duke Health). Researchers have connected age-related damage and
clotting of arteries (atherosclerosis) with the decline of a
particular type of stem cell in the body. This raises the strong
possibility of a regenerative therapy similar to that trialed
successfully for heart damage in recent months. The patient's own stem
cells could be extracted, cultured and returned to the body in greater
numbers to help repair damaged tissue. If, that is, the FDA doesn't
step in to block this therapy as well.
The End of Cancer As We Know It (July 14 2003)
A long, well-written article at Wired examines the dramatic shifts in
cancer therapy that have happened in the past decade and continue
today. Cancer, while still a danger, is on the way out as a
life-threatening disease and well on the way to becoming a mere
chronic condition. Just how this came to be is told in detail in this
fascinating article. We can hope that we'll be reading very similar
articles in ten or twenty years time about progress in the search for
a cure for aging itself. Success (in the lab, in raising awareness and
in securing funding) in the fight against cancer is the model for
success in the path to healthy life extension medicine.
Do you have comments for us, or want to discuss the newsletter? Visit
the Longevity Meme forum at http://www.longevitymeme.org/forum.cfm, or
send e-mail to newsletter at longevitymeme.org.